From New England to Iceland to Australia, there a number of destinations famous for the saying, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes!” How do you pack when you’re headed to a place where all four seasons can rear their ugly heads over the course of a single day?
The obvious answer to any packing conundrum is to dress in layers. Packing one set each of winter, spring, summer, and fall outfits will make your suitcase near impossible to close. Instead, use summer as your starting point and add layers to turn that same outfit into a version ready for the cold. The same t-shirt you wear on a hot day can have a cardigan thrown over it at night and a thicker fleece jacket the next day when the temperature drops.
While they won’t fly at the club and thus shouldn’t be the only bottom you pack, convertible pants that zip off at the knee to become shorts can be a big space saver on a multi-climate trip. They’re best suited for outdoorsy holidays, especially those focused on hiking. You might start out with a pair of pants in the early morning and when the afternoon sun gets too hot, you can easily switch to shorts.
Generally, you don’t need more than two or three pairs of shoes on any trip. Pack a pair of sandals for warmer days. For everyday wear, opt out of the typical tourist sneaker in favor of a pair of well-made, comfortable boots. On an outdoorsy trip, you’ll likely want to wear hiking boots anyway. If you’re sticking to cities, there are plenty of sleek options that won’t hurt your feet. If you’re concerned about comfort, throw a set or two of gel insoles into your pack.
For ladies especially, bringing along accessories like jewelry and scarves can help your capsule travel wardrobe feel sparkling new every day. Jeans and a t-shirt work for casual sightseeing during the day, and swapping out accessories could make your look feel evening ready without taking up much space in your bag.
Your most critical piece of outerwear is a good rain jacket. Get one with a full lining so it feels more like outerwear and make sure the pockets are large so you can stuff them and keep your carry-on bag’s weight down. It’ll also save space by negating the need for an umbrella. (Though you may want to throw a waterproof rain cover over your pack just in case you get caught in a storm on your way to the hotel.)
If you need to pack bulky winter clothes like sweaters, jackets, and jeans, a compression sack is your best friend. Sea to Summit and Eagle Creek both make quality versions. It won’t help keep your pack light in the weight department, but it can cut the volume of space your clothes take up in half.